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A woman has revealed how she turned down her dream home because she has suffered with lifelong triskaidekaphobia – an extreme fear or avoidance of the number 13.

Happy to open umbrellas inside, keep a black cat, or smash a mirror without fear, Clare McAfee, 36, of Dublin, Ireland, is only superstitious about anything including a 13, which she says gives her the “heebie jeebies."


A former office manager, she is so spooked by the figure she will not sit on the 13th row of a plane, turns down invitations on the 13th of the month and decided not to live at number 13, despite it being her dream home, saying:

“I have no idea where my fear's come from. It must have been something that was instilled in me as a child, as I've always been this way."

ClarePA Real Life/Collect

She continued:

“The number 13 just makes me uneasy. I would go as far as to say it is a phobia. It feels like encouraging bad luck."
“About two months ago, I found my dream house. It ticked every single box. It was on the sea front with a lovely garden, a great size and in budget."
“But as soon as I found out it was number 13, I couldn't move there. I didn't want to tempt fate."

Clare, who cannot work at the moment as she is recovering from surgery to treat hydrocephalus – a build-up of fluid on the brain, which she was diagnosed with earlier in 2019 – recalls 13 being a problem for her when she was very young.

She said:

“As a little girl, as young as I can remember, I couldn't settle if the TV volume was on 13, feeling compelled to change it to 12 or 14 instead."

And through the years, her superstition only deepened.

Clare recovering from her recent surgeryPA Real Life/Collect

She explained:

“I've never actually had anything bad happen to me related to the number 13, but I try and avoid it wherever I can."
“I wouldn't want to make any plans outside my normal daily routine on day 13 of each month – especially not traveling. No way. If I went to book a flight and there were only seats in the 13th row left, I wouldn't go."
“I also wouldn't want a phone number with 13 in it. I'd definitely change it. Just seeing it written in numerical form freaks me out."

Clare was recently given the table number 13 when she ordered some lunchPA Real Life/Collect

Clare would make some exceptions – for example, if she was invited to an important birthday celebration or a wedding on 13th, she would force herself to go, so as not to offend anyone.

Wherever possible, though, she will turn down events on 13th. Recently, she refused tickets to see Elton John, as the gig was on Friday 13, and chose another date instead.

And, during her recent treatment for her brain condition, she has dreaded the number 13 appearing in her appointments.

Most common superstitions

  • Never placing unworn shoes on the table
  • Ensuring that umbrellas are never opened indoors
  • Throwing spilt salt over the left shoulder
  • Believing that breaking a mirror will lead to seven years of bad luck
  • Not walking under any ladders
  • Placing dreamcatchers in the bedroom
  • Getting in and out of bed on the same side
  • Not having any beds directly facing the door
  • Keeping the toilet seat down whenever it's not in use
  • Arriving home through the same door that you exited the house from

“I would try to avoid medical appointments for 1pm, as that is 13:00 hours on the 24 hour clock," she said.

“For my surgery a few weeks ago, there were 16 beds, and I was terrified they would give me number 13."
“I know it sounds bizarre and superstitious, but when you are having something like surgery, the last thing you want is to feel like you are encouraging bad luck by staying in bed 13 on ward 13."

Most recently, Clare's phobia saw her turn down her dream home after months of hunting, because it was number 13 – despite property company Zoopla saying in a 2017 survey that houses and flats with this door number are typically almost £9,000 ($11,200) cheaper than the average UK property.

Clare added:

“I know I could have changed the house from a number to a name, but I'd have still known it was technically number 13. I kept thinking how post could wind up there addressed to 13 anyway, and seeing that written down against my name would have just given me the heebie jeebies."

While Clare's aversion to 13 is intense she is not alone, with Office of National Statistics (ONS) research finding that between 1995 and 2013, while Fridays were the second most popular day to marry, on Friday 13 the number of weddings dropped by a whopping 49 per cent.

Furthermore, in 2013, the Irish government brought in a new license plate system, partly due to fears that having a 13 on a vehicle number plate would affect sales amongst superstitious buyers.

Clare (L) with her friend CecilyPA Real Life/Collect

While interiors specialists Hillarys have just surveyed 2,600 Brits and found 68 per cent have irrational habits when it comes to their homes – the most common of which include never placing new shoes on the table, not opening umbrellas indoors and throwing spilt salt over the left shoulder – Clare is only superstitious about 13.

Clare – who has paid her deposit on another house, with no connection to the number 13 – laughed:

“I put my shoes on the table just the other day, and wouldn't think twice about opening an umbrella indoors."
“I've broken mirrors before and not cared and even used to have a black cat. There is just something about the number 13."

Clare with her grandad (PA Real Life/Collect)PA Real Life/Collect

She concluded:

“I'm sure there are other people out there like me, who feel freaked out by it, too. It's a superstition that is really hyped up in popular culture."

To read Clare's wellbeing blog, click here

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